HALF a century working for the Central Fife Times was reflected upon by the speaker at Cowdenbeath and District Probus Club on Tuesday.

Jim Stark recalled how he worked full-time for the paper for 47 years, and was now in his third year of semi-retirement, working part-time for the paper.

Jim told the Probus members that the Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly Times was established by Lochgelly company, Westwaters, in 1892, but as the area grew in population, through the development of the mining industry, the company decided to create two papers and in 1927.

That led to the Cowdenbeath Advertiser being set up to cover the Crossgates, Fordell, Hill of Beath, Cowdenbeath, Kelty and Lumphinnans areas; and the Lochgelly Times was for the Lochgelly, Ballingry, Lochore, Crosshill, Glencraig, Auchterderran, Cardenden, Bowhill, Dundonald and Kinglassie communities.

The papers were bought over by A Romanes and Son, the owners of the Dunfermline Press, in 1968, and when the Central Fife Co-operative Society was created in 1973, serving the whole area, the company decided to merge the two papers and call it the Central Fife Times.

Jim said: “At that time the editor was George Hutchison, who was based in Cowdenbeath, while the Lochgelly office was staffed by Jack Dougary, and a junior reporter. In October 1973 I was appointed to that role and it began a long connection with the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area for me.

“I was very fortunate to learn a lot under the direction of George and Jack. When George retired in 1976, Jack took over as editor and I became his assistant.

"Jack was an amazing man to work with, his part-time role of a comedian coming into the day-to-day work in the office! It really saw many hilarious moments.

“Jack retired in July 1989 and I was fortunate to be chosen by the managing director of A Romanes and Son, Deirdre Romanes, to be the next editor of the CFT.

"I was also lucky to have Susan Dryburgh accept the role of depute.

“Susan, who had been a young junior reporter with the Press, was keen to get the chance to work in the Cowden-Gelly area, and she was soon very popular in the various village communities and the two towns, and was a very good community reporter.

“Unfortunately Susan was to fall ill with MS, but was able to work on until well into the 2000s.

"When the illness eventually forced her to stop working, Peter Swindon was my assistant for three years, and then after that it became more of a solo role, with help coming from the Dunfermline Press staff, right up to October 2020."

Jim recalled his connection with former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown: “I was delighted to be able to work with Gordon from the moment he was elected as the local MP in 1983, through to him becoming Prime Minister in 2007 and beyond.

"It was good to be able to continue to work with him until he stood down from parliament in 2015."

During the 47 years he worked full-time with the paper, Jim saw the methods of printing change from hot metal, through to web-offset, and the way the paper was produced completely change, and latterly, the arrival of a CFT website and social media.

“When I began news copy was typed, or hand written by reporters, and then set by copy typists, and a Lochgelly man was one of them, Bill Paul, while Jimmy McIntosh, also from the town, was a copy reader who checked for any typing errors,” added Jim.

“The paper was then laid out on what was described as the ‘stone’, basically wooden frames which held dummy pages, and compositors pasted together individual stories onto pages.

“Another Lochgelly man, John Blamey, was a compositor, who then worked his way up the ladder to eventually become the computer room manager.

“As technology moved forward, and the systems became more advanced, the pages of each issue were then made up by myself as editor, and then photography became more advanced and in 1998 colour pictures were used for the first time in the Times, giving the paper a much brighter look.

“Digital photography became prominent at the start of the 21st century, with the end of film being used and by 2010, many pictures being published in the paper, were taken on mobile phones."

Jim also recalled that he had spent many decades being involved with Cowdenbeath Football Club through the Times, and had spent close to 20 years as the club’s announcer.

He also followed closely the fortunes of local clubs, such as Hill of Crossgates Primrose, Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Kelty Hearts, Dundonald Bluebell, Lochore Welfare and Lochgelly Albert.